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The Punisher Review

Developer: Volition Publisher: THQ
Release Date: January 17, 2005 Also On: PC, PS2 and Xbox

I’m very new to the world of The Punisher, despite seeing the movie and now playing Volition’s action game. But after my experience with this gore-a-thon, I have a few speculations about Marvel’s comic book anti-hero.

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First of all, the comics probably aren’t very pretty–but I bet they’re loaded to the teeth with cringe-worthy scenes depicting sadistically and horrifyingly brutal murders. The Punisher gets most of its charm in this department; and like Rockstar’s Manhunt, it might gather a few fans based on this violence factor alone.

Also, the comics must draw in a lot of fans solely for the violence, because the story is pretty awful. The Punisher, also known as Frank Castle to his “friends,” is bent on destroying the Gnucci mob family, who killed his family. There are the expected plot twists, betrayals, and surprising alliances–and basically, everything happens the way you expect it to. This doesn’t make a very exciting story, but it is based off a comic book, and they aren’t written to be novels.

During each of the Punisher’s levels, you’ll make use of Frank Castle’s love for interrogations. This is where the violence comes in. Every enemy in the game can be grappled and forced to “talk”. However, only certain enemies have useful information, and those guys are marked with an icon floating over their heads. Once you’ve grappled them, you can punch, choke, or face-slam an enemy into submission until he talks and gives you the information you need to advance. After you’re done and your enemy is bloodily beaten, you can choose to keep him as a human shield or finish him off.

The “good” interrogations are even more intense. If you carry an enemy over to a marked area (usually near a ledge or a dangerous tool of some sort), you can interrogate an enemy while threatening to kill them in several twisted ways. You’ll find yourself dangling enemies above pirahnna pits, holding them under a power drill, and even slamming their faces into boilers. These “special interrogations” just get more gruesome than the next, which will keep a sick grin on a fan’s face and a sickening frown on everyone else’s.

The Punisher’s violence factor will draw in some fans, and the game is relatively easy to play. Pointing-and-shooting is the name of the game, especially when Punisher can carry around dual M4 rifles or P90 submachine guns. However, there comes a time near the end of the game when the levels tend to drag on. When this happens and you’ve killed over a hundred enemies that look the same, the charm is lost and basically you just want the game to end. The action is fun for about two or three hours, but once you’ve reached that point–and you’ve seen too many heads explode–it’s hard to enjoy The Punisher.

The technical values are also lackluster, with graphics that blush to early Playstation 2 titles. The character models are generic, The Punisher’s animation (especially for his dive move) are pretty choppy, and the game hardly uses its Havok physics engine. The music is pretty generic as well, and the dialogue is loaded with brainless one-liners and stupid uses of swear words.

Overall, The Punisher really let me down. It was a fun game for a little while, which puts it at the low level of a rental status. Even as a Punisher fan, you’d have to learn to love the cheap thrills, gory kills, and novelty factors to look past the repetitive gameplay and terrible graphics.

Graphics: 5
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 5.8
Written by Cliff Review Guide